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You Only Reap What You Sow Now: Lyndy Simpson

“All of our nearest and dearest Fijian friends and acquaintances sternly warned us to NOT FARM KAVA! They said there is no way we could make it work,” Mrs Simp­son said.
08 Jan 2020 15:59
You Only Reap What You Sow Now: Lyndy Simpson
Kai Veikau Kava owner and managing director, Lyndy Simpson.

You only get what you inspect. Start small and treat any new plantings like babies.

This was the advice by Lyndy Simpson, owner and managing di­rector for Kai Veikau Kava in Va­nua Levu.

The farm was established in 2013 with four contracted staff on task by task basis. It also employed up to 30 people from local villages and church groups on a contract basis when it undertook bigger tasks like clearing, ring weeding and mass planting.

Mrs Simpson said now their farms employed 12 full time staff with full employee benefits (FNPF, annual and sick leave).

They also sell their product to Donny Yee from Lami Kava, which is known to many.

Background:

Mrs Simpson and her husband Bart Simpson arrived in Fiji in 2009.

They were employed as a manage­ment couple for Jean-Michel Cous­teau resort in Savusavu.

After two years on the job she resigned to home school their two daughters. Her husband took on both their roles and continued working at the resort where he is now employed as the resort general manager.

“After many years working and talking with our resort staff about farming and subsistence living, the word “Green gold” was intriguing and really perked our interest to learn more,” she said.

“Following a lot of research, we decided that kava farming could be the key to freedom we so desired.”

Don’t Do it, They Said:

“All of our nearest and dearest Fijian friends and acquaintances sternly warned us to NOT FARM KAVA! They said there is no way we could make it work,” Mrs Simp­son said.

“But we had faith and trust in the Fijian people that offered us our first block of land. I’ll admit that this was risky and we were un­comfortable not having an official lease. At the end of the day we had trust and so in 2013 we proceeded with the first farm.”

Apart from other farms they own, the couple also has a farm in Baga­ta, Wailevu East where they pro­duce the Kai Veikau Kava.

Outlets in Fiji:

“We sold green in 2017 and end up with the buyer owing us $80K be­fore cutting him off. (To this day he has an unpaid debt of $27500 that I have not been able to recover despite my efforts with authorities. This is a story within itself),” Mrs Simpson said.

“That said, having gone through this we decided that we did not want to risk selling our product to middlemen and decided to clean and dry our product personally. Which we sold and continue to sell to Donny Yee from Lami Kava.

Other than Jean-Michel Coust­eau resort, the company’s first dis­tributor is their good friend Laisa Bale, who opened the Propolis Cafe in Butt Street, Suva.

Natural Disaster:

Site selection has been the most important consideration for reduc­ing potential impact from natural disasters, she says.

“Growing kava on hills helps ex­cess rain drain away quickly. Let­ting grasses and vines grow long­er than we usually allow gives a buffer between the plants so they can’t swing around as much during high/destructive winds.”

Future Plans:

Currently the company has three iTaukei Land Trust Board leases and are going through the paper­work to secure a fourth lease for 2020.

“We are also in the process of building our processing factory.

“We have just completed the in­stallation of the Solar UV Dryer which we plan to use for the first time this week.”

Advice:

“Never stop planting, you only reap later what you sow now! Being an absent owner does not result in a successful plantation.

“Take the time to learn from your failures in the hope you can avoid history repeating itself.

“Stay focused! It’s hard to labour for three years without payback. But when it happens you have the potential to change your life course forever,” Mrs Simpson said.

Kava remains the only product that the company sells at this stage, however the couple have also start­ed investing in dalo, yasi and agar trees.

Feedback: selita.bolanavanua@fijisun.com.fj

 

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